The police in Salem, Tamil Nadu, arrested a panchayat president T Manickam, a DMK office-bearer on Monday (January 30), for publicly abusing and threatening a Dalit youth because the latter went close to the sanctum sanctorum of a temple.
T Manickam, the president of the Thirumalaigiri panchayat in Salem district, and south union secretary of DMK Salem East unit, was seen abusing and intimidating the Dalit youth, Praveen Kumar, in front of a large gathering of villagers in a video that went viral on social media.
Shortly after this incident, the DMK general secretary, Duraimurugan, suspended Manickam from the primary membership of the party, and stripped him of the party post.
On a complaint filed by Praveen Kumar on Monday (January 30), the police registered a case under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and arrested Manickam. The police were deployed in the village to maintain law and order.
Manickam’s version of the incident is that Praveen was drunk and had entered the temple and quarrelled with some villagers. The villagers allegedly brought Praveen before him the next day, and he warned him not to repeat the incident. Manickam claimed that he had a good relationship with the Dalits in the village, and that some people were trying to politicise the issue due to the impending Assembly by-election in Erode (East). Further, he promised that he would prove his innocence.
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A district secretary of the CPI(M), an ally of the DMK, on the other hand, said that Manickam verbally abused Praveen Kumar in front of a group of villagers for entering the temple on January 26.
The head of the Tamil Nadu BJP unit, K Annamalai, posted the video on Twitter and tweeted, “A DMK MP was seen taking pride in the temple demolition yesterday & today we see a DMK district functionary in Salem district in Tamil Nadu preventing brothers & sisters from the SC community from entering a Temple. DMK model of Social Justice for us all!”
The Ambedkar People’s Movement asked the Salem Collector, S Karmegam, to sack Manickam from the post of panchayat president. The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) planned to ask the Collector to accompany the Dalits to the temple.